Law & Human Rights

January 19, 2018

Winnie loses battle for Mandela’s rural home

Winnie loses battle for Mandela’s rural home

Winnie Mandela

A South African court on Friday struck down a long-running effort by late president Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela to claim ownership of his former rural home.

Winnie Mandela

The Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed her appeal against a lower court’s ruling that she was not the rightful owner of the property in his childhood village.

Mandela, the country’s first democratic president, spent much of his early years in Qunu in the Eastern Cape province after being born nearby. He regularly returned to the village after his retirement and was buried there in 2013.

In his will, the anti-apartheid icon left the house to his family trust, but Madikizela-Mandela claimed it belonged to her under customary law because it was bought in 1989 while they were still married.

The couple were wed in 1956 and divorced in 1996.

Madikizela-Mandela had approached the Supreme Court in Bloemfontein to challenge the 2016 ruling by the Eastern Cape High Court that said she had no claim to the home.

“A reasonable person in (her) position… would have asserted a right to ownership of the property before the death of Mr Mandela,” said justice Jeremiah Shongwe, delivering the ruling.

Mandela was arrested in 1962 and spent 27 years in jail before becoming South Africa’s first black president in the post-apartheid elections of 1994.

On his death bed, he left his assets to family members, personal staff, schools and the ruling African National Congress party.

Mandela’s will, which did not mention Madikizela-Mandela, said that he wanted the Qunu homestead to “be used by my family in perpetuity in order to preserve the unity of the Mandela family”.

Mandela married his third wife Graca Machel, the widow of Mozambique president Samora Machel, in 1998.